Thursday, September 30, 2010

Deadliest Catch-“Captains stand together”

I don’t have a lot of time for TV but love to catch episodes of Deadliest Catch when they are on. Watching these guys battle freezing water, ice and raging seas in bad weather really pumps me up for the next adventure. Seeing what these guys have to endure on a regular basis increases my yearning for adventure while keeping my complaining in perspective.

Enter Turmoil-could kill the show

Now the show is in turmoil over a dispute with the Hillstrands that jeopardizes the program and the relationship crab fishermen have with the Discovery Channel. Apparently a new pilot show ran into trouble and the Hillstrands failed to complete the project for whatever reason. Discovery turned around and sued them for 3-Million bucks. This will cripple the crab fishing enterprise forcing them to sell the boat and lay off the crew. This is a bad play for both sides and I don’t see the show recovering without some level of tarnished reputation, hard feelings and lost viewers. Without knowing all of the details of the disagreement, I am thinking both sides own some of the blame. For Discovery to bring in their team of fancy suited lawyers it is safe to assume that the Hillstrands have indeed violated the signed agreements. But to risk relationships on a viable show for a pilot\spin off is silly at best. Deadliest Catch is one of Discovery Channels more popular shows.

Hail, Captain Sid!
Know the Hillstrand boat is my least favorite on the show for a number of reasons but The Nothwestern is my favorite crab boat on the show. Captain Sid has announced his pulling out of the show stating that “Captains stand together”. This speaks volumes to me and I hope the other captains pull out as well. As much as I will miss the pounding waves and pump of adrenaline before a big trip, captains stand together. Thank you, Captains for giving me a glimpse into your fishing world.

Hope it all works out and the show can continue with the majority of the original cast. May the Hillstrands survive this litigation and continue their family tradition of crab fishing in the arctic sea. Link to full article below.

Good luck and Good Fishing.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Planning for Optimum

Planning: “The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.” Sun Tzu-Art of War

Some trips are better than others and few trips ever go as planned. But one common rule stands true: better-planned trips generally go better overall. One thing that could make so many outdoor adventures more tolerable and even pleasant for more people is something as simple as better planning. Some people plan for trips with potato salad in mind. I plan trips for optimum fishing.

Many of my co-workers, friends and associates plan a trip with everything in mind except great fishing. Fish planning comes last for most of the weekend urban fishing crowd. Then they get there and wonder why the fish are not jumping in the boat. The answer may be as obvious as fishing a river during the peak runoff period or fishing a lake that simply has very few active fish. In some cases the two water types are right next to each other. They simply had to transition from one to the other (of course I am assuming the lake would be better to fish than the river-actual conditions may vary). A little bit of homework would have showed them that.

A lot of my trips have gone awry even with meticulous planning. Fishing conditions can fluctuate so much that it really can be hit or miss even when you plan well. To help add some visualization to my “Philosophy of Trip Planning” I have added an illustration of one trip that started out great but fell apart quickly even with some of my best efforts.

(Above: Red marks indicate days of the week. The blue line indicates the fishing action and how it fluctuates from one day to the next. A high blue curve is optimal fishing conditions whereas a low blue curve is dismal or nonexistent. The catch ratio is realistically 100 fish versus zero.)

The trip was a run into territory off my usual target range of 5 to 30 miles driving distance. In fact this was 80-90 miles away. Considering the extra drive time we opted for hotel rooms in order to focus all of our time on great fishing. Monday things looked great. By Thursday we were writing down emergency phone numbers and filling out donor cards. Weather was UGLY. Roads were closed and we ended up scratching the whole damn weekend of fishing (of course I ended up fishing some no name creek with 10”trout…must fish).

Now the trip is in “backpeddle mode” and we scrambled to shift things a week down on the calendar. Luckily the reservations could be moved and days off work didn’t mess up the weekend. With some smooth talking, late shifts and good old-fashioned elbow grease the trip turned from red to green. We were all set for next weekend.

And wouldn’t you know it…bad weather rolled in again. Another storm front and 20 degree drop in air temperature. The snow wasn’t nearly as bad as the previous week and roads were open. We fished through it this time and held our own. Warm water species lake fishing on Brush Hollow was scrapped early and we hit the Ark River for “always active” brown trout on the coldwater scene instead. The point I am trying to make is that you plan the best you can and your trip will be better for it. There are so many things that you can’t control. Plan for everything that you do control. Throw in a Plan B or even C if possible.

Now let’s take a look at a few things you do control in regards to fishing. Focusing “good planning” on these elements will put more opportunity in front of you. Potato salad is optional but you have to pack it. I barely have room for extra tackle and water. Let’s begin.

Planning the species is very crucial if your primary focus of this trip is to do well in the “catching” department. Nearly every species that I can think of has periods of high activity and periods of lesser activity. Planning your trip during the peak times within a certain fish’s natural cycle can mean everything for some fish like tiger muskie or football shaped perch. Some species have naturally aggressive feeding periods at certain times of the year so targeting these periods often results in better catch. It may be as basic as timing the ice-off on certain lakes or even during fall when fish try to put on that feedbag before winter.

Other key factors to look for in the species are it’s spawning cycle. Most fish are at their peek activity levels right before and after the spawn. Rainbow trout spawn in the spring while brown trout spawn in the fall. Anglers find more activity from one trout species as opposed to the other, on the same stretch of water, simply depending on what time of year it is. It is also crucial to know when certain species are nesting/rearing as to allow optimum conditions for next year.

Location is another major factor as not all water is “good fishing”. Once you learn a little about the species you are targeting, the search for good water should follow next in your thought process. There are many resources at your fingertips via the internet but also look to books, videos, anything you can get your hands on. Mining through it takes time but worth every second. My best fish often come from secluded waters that have been found through research and scouting. Find the good spots yourself and make others do the same. That is part of the lore of fishing. Sharing with friends is good but coughing up your best fishing spots to the shameless masses is utterly foolish in my opinion.

Weather and seasonal factors are huge for safety, comfort and fishing results. Some fish will favor certain seasonal conditions that may come with perils. Mackinaw prefer those drastic temperature drops during ice off and late fall. The worst weather may fall into this time frame so extra precaution is not just advised but required. Make sure you have the right weather gear and items for these trips. Consult professionals if needed.

Moon phase is something I factor in but is not absolute. This means that I will try to aim the planning in this direction but if work and other elements don’t all properly align, the trip can be moved a few days or even a week or two one direction or the other. Some trip planning can fall apart completely if you try to cram every aspect into one particular day. Being a bit more flexible with one eye on the moon phase is how I keep most trips on track and closest to optimum.

Checklist and mental walkthrough is excellent follow up for any trip plan. Go over that list several times to make sure you have the essential items. Mentally walking through your trip and fishing day will reinforce that list.

Setting expectations is more important than people might think. Nothing kills a ride home from a trip more than deflated expectations. Not every trip will contain trophy fish or buckets upon buckets of fish meat. Being optimistic is a good thing. Expecting a glorious fishing trip of epic proportions every time you walk out the door is setting you up for a letdown. Being more realistic and hoping for one great fish or a few good quality fish will keep you more properly focused.

Lastly, don’t over think things. Even the best planners can over think a trip during the planning stage. You know you have gone this route when you spend more time packing, unpacking and then packing again only to unpack all that stuff once you get home. Set your priorities for the outdoors and focus on the items you will need and use. Once again the walkthrough should solidify what you need and that extra stuff that might make things a little bit more comfortable.

That pretty much covers all of the elements and things that roll through my mind before a big trip or a tip to that special spot when you want the very best action that water can provide. I hope this tattered piece of material will help you plan better to fish better unless what you really wanted all along was potato salad.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lucky Bucket Sunday!

(Above: Lucky Bucketmouth on an “oh please” Sunday. This is desperation bass casting.)

By Sunday I am a mess. The twisted ankle kept me sidelined on Saturday. The beer review (albeit adventurous) was not enough to pacify my casting jones. The shorter days mean that the warm water season is fading. Soon the landscape will be covered with snow and the bass casting action will turn gruelingly tough at best. The ankle wasn’t cliff-dive ready so I hit a local pond to burn some mono.

Working the accessible areas of the lake I only manage to come up with one dinker bass in the 8-inch class. Half the lake is no access with a long cattail section in the back. Strip off the swimbait and load up the fantastic plastic in the 6-inch Senko flavor. The low profile and weight is just enough to reach the cattail section.

One heavy cast and “ploooomp”, into the water. The swimbait (and a lot of other lures) would have made an enormous splash from this distance as where the stickbait will often make a tiny pin drop of a splash. Manage some line slack and wait a few seconds for the lure to sink. Then a soft bump is felt on the line. It was as if I had been waiting for this bump my whole life. Before the third bump my arm swung burying a quick hookset. The rod bent a little at first and then doubled over fiercely with the drag singing.

The shorebang fish battle was at hand. Fighting fish from shore can be far more difficult than from watercraft. The angler is forced to close the distance from the bank bringing the fish up, over and sometimes through any obstacles. As the fish surfaced I could only see a portion of it but the fish still looked big and green.

“Oh please…hold on, baby!”

Moments later the fish submitted to the shallow water near my feet and was in hand. I dare say it has been a while since I wanted to see a big lunker bucketmouth this badly. The ankle never gave me a second thought. Thanks to all who shared their concern. You folks are the best!!!

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Twist the ankle-Do a beer review

Prolog: Fishing a steep dirt incline I snag the fly on a twig of an outstretched log that had fallen onto the shelf. It was a precarious area to begin with so carefully I inched my way down and unhooked the fly. As weight was pushed off my legs to get back up the entire dirt shelf, log and all decides to start rolling down towards the lake. Some mad scrambling ensued to keep myself from going into the drink. Somehow I reach the top of the incline with dry feet. Then I stand up and feel a twinge of numbness in my left ankle and foot.

“Uh…that isn’t good.” I said.

Funny thing is there was no pain until the next day. Not enough to make me cut the whole foot off, stop walking, or anything like that. No swelling, no discoloration, it was a carbon copy of the one on the other side. It just hurt a little bit unless I tried to turn. Then it really hurt.

“Eh…walk it off tough guy.” I chirped while drinking my second cup of coffee.

When the pain didn’t go away after a day or two I started to get more concerned and walked a bit more gingerly. By Friday I was waiving off cliff jumps and fishing trips. If the pain wasn’t cleared out by the weekend I was going into the doc.

Friday night after a quick trip to the local brew vendor I decided there were only two ways to salvage this mess. Wrap the ankle up and do a beer review on the blogilicious. I have seen a few beer reviews on other fishing blogs and have always wanted to chime in on the subject. I have explored beer to a great extent and dare say these exploits have been nearly as adventurous as my fishing. My only stipulation is that the beer I review has to have something to do with fish or fishing.

On with the review…

Kokanee, A Canadian Pilsner. Doesn’t taste like salmon!

Kokanee is a light pilsner lager compared to most Canadian beers with 5.0% alcohol and just so happens to be the best selling beer in British Columbia. Having consumed the other Canadian products such as Molson’s “Golden, Canadian and even their XXX”, I decided to give Kokanee a side-by-side taste run. Probably not the best idea I have ever had.

The flavor is light compared to another Canadian import that I have tasted. In fact this tastes a lot like a “Yank” beer such as Budwesier or MGD. The color, body and even the label looks a lot like a beer you would find in the United States. Easy to tip back I might add and about three-fourths the drunken-punch of a regular Canadian import (by about 0.3 to 0.5% depending on the exact beverage). I had three down by the time I remembered the six-pack of Molson Canadian I bought as well for the head to head match up. One swig of the more stout M-C and I could tell the difference. Had to pace myself with the M-C’s in order to catch up. Have to admit that the Kokanee was pretty smooth.

The problem isn’t the taste…it’s the slogans. The folks at Kokanee had a local niche with the original slogan “Brewed RIGHT in the Kootenays”. But everyone that lived outside the Kootenays said…”What’s a Kootenay? I don’t think beer is supposed to come out of there.”

So they change the old slogan to “Glacier Fresh!”…um…glaciers are kinda like the oldest thing on the planet next to rocks. I know there is a complex filtering and brewing process (they use stream water actually) but aren’t glaciers pretty much the same thing as really old ice cubes? Why not say you use spring water or just plain old runoff if your angle is to be “fresh”? I don’t know. If it were me, the glacier angle would be different…

“Smooth like a glacier…Prehistoric buzz!!!”

In closing, I would say that Kokanee is a good, light tasting Canadian import that doesn’t require bail money.

The ankle? It sounds crazy but I could tell that there was something out of place. I wrapped the ankle and foot up in an ace bandage and rotated it in the air until the crunching noises stopped. There was a warm tingly sensation that felt like blood rushing into the damaged area for several minutes. The sharp pain was gone and only a mild soreness remained. Now if I could only cure this prehistoric hangover.

Good luck and Good Fishing.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Still doing the trash pick up thing

(Above: Trash bag photo-op with too much forward hold. This one is for you, Murtle.)

Not going to stop until I make this whole trash pick up thing more popular. At the very least I should be able to get less people leaving trash and more people picking it up. Simple things like clean shorelines should never be too much to ask for. The more clean up you do, the better your fishing spots will become. Most of the time I spare my readers from too much of this material and focus more on the shameless fish bragging but that whole Myrtle Turtle thing got me all fired up again.

The photo comes from the Big Thompson River about a week or so ago. The fee section got in a basic cleanup once the fishing was trip was completed. I managed to pull about a softball-sized wad of fishing line out along with a few bottles, cans, coffee cups, some broken glass and half a bag of other junk. The wind blows quite a bit at times bringing quite a bit of this to the water along with the less than respectful passerby. The effort seems futile at times but this area is fairly pristine most of the time. I had simply caught this stretch of water on a bad day. In an hour or two this jewel was bright and shiny once again. A little bit goes a long ways.

As we see populations continue to grow in Colorado there will be more problems with pollution. Many of these problems have complicated solutions but many of them are as simple as picking up trash. Eventually the world may become completely covered by steel, asphalt and trash. Until then I intend to fight the litterbugs every step of the way at least at a handful of my favorite fishing spots

Good luck and good fishing.

Photos from the Field

(Above: "Hello. Rusty!" Oh what a glorious piece of rusty “junk”. Nearly complete this is what serves as a lawn ornament for some people in Colorado.)

Summer was barely a whisper and now the cold crisp bite of fall is slowly seeping in. Leaves are turning, fading and falling the forest floor. For so many creatures this is the most important time. Whether this is a time to feast, a time to fatten or a time to breed (possibly all of the above), fall is the stage before winter and winter can be the ultimate test. Throughout my outdoor travels I take photos that don’t seem to fit into various fish posts or get left behind for some reason. “Photos from the Field” is an excerpt meant to capture these pictures and add a little variety on my fishing blogilicious.

Bad Boys of Cripple Creek
(Above: They might have taken this sign down many years ago had it not served so well as fence posts. My guess these guys are still in business or locked up in the local pokey.)

Another Cripple Creek sign…

(Above: Bonafide street sign for a person in Cripple Creek that has seven or eight mules running around the front lawn. Or maybe this is just a metaphor of sorts.)

Sun Rocks

If you fish lakes with fluctuating water levels you might have come across “Sun Rocks”. These rocks will come out and sun themselves when the water level drops and then go back into the water when the water levels rise again. Sun rocks use very little oxygen, none at all in fact, so breathing in and out of the water is never a problem for them.

(Above: Small herd of sun rocks grabbing a good soak of sunshine by the shoreline. They don’t spook easily. In fact these sun rocks didn’t pay much attention to me at all.)

Stoopid train

This is the train that I waited for about thirty or so excruciating minutes while fishing on the Clear Creek run up Georgetown. All I wanted was a picture of the train going over the bridge. Instead the conductor kept blowing the missile a mile away at the loading station every few minutes to make me think he was on his way. So then I walk half a mile up to the station and the train starts rolling. Five minutes after that the darn thing is rolling over the bridge and I’m not there to take the shot.

(Above: Picture of said train as it rolls through the mountains. In the background you can see some of the pine trees that have been killed from the devastating affects of the pine beetle.)

Empire of Wood – “Jus werkin’ wit wut I got”.

Near the town of Granby there resides what may be one of the most serious wood dealers you will find. The guy has gone so far as to fence himself in with wood and nearly completed a tower of sorts. This person has created an entire empire, a castle if you will, from something they have a lot of. Achieving personal dreams through creative means and simply using a common resource all around them.

(Above: Through the window shot on the way through Granby. The top blue sign says “High Roller”, bottom blue sign says; “Easy Money”. This person is living their dream mostly on their terms and feasting on life’s simple pleasures. )

So many of my fishing adventures and photos don’t make it to my fishing blogs for whatever reason. Photos from the Field is intended to give some of those interesting pictures a spotlight outside of the shameless fish bragging. Once again, I want to thank everyone that views my fishing blog material and puts up with my comments on their blog. You have no idea how much it truly means to me have you following, reading and commenting. Thank you.

Good luck and Good Fishing.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Brookie Rematch

(Above: Beauty brook trout that clobbered the black ant pattern. The white stripe at the bottom of the fins really adds to the fantastic color of this fish species.)

The aspen trees are showing signs of fall as one or two leaves are changing from soft green to a vibrant yellow or gold. A few more weeks and it will be perfect. Fall always seem to find me battling over rocks and trees in the high country for trout. A few months back Don and hit a brook trout spot where Don stumbled across a new fly pattern. Schedules opened up and we penciled in a rematch of sorts. This time I would bring the long rod.

With only a day to prep the only thing needed was the ant fly pattern. Searched several locations and couldn’t find anything close. Eventually I stumbled across a hardware store with just enough fishing tackle to make my list of last-ditch places to stop in an emergency. Funny how anglers generally don’t remember the way to the hospital but will subliminally map every tackle store within a twenty-mile radius of their house. Luckily I was able to find one suitable black ant pattern in a #16. I wanted bigger but that was the only size they had. First dip into the water and it was getting flashes. A few more tries after that and fish were getting lipped.
(Above: Really bad picture of the micro-ant pattern. I tried two small dry patterns along with a few micro-creature bugs. The ant seemed to get most of the love.)

The rematch aspect of this trip was not about Don and myself. The quest was for me to try and dial in the hot ant pattern that was so successful for Don last time. He worked circles around me on that early summer trip. The number count was far more even this time I must say.

(Above: Don holding one of his beauty brooks. It almost looks as if the brook trout is copying the fin color of a clown fish for some reason. Fish are $%^^ amazing.)

Missed a few fish that will torment me in my sleep again. One fish I lost when it wrapped around someone else’s line. Luckily it was able to break off and return to the deep rather than be trapped on the wad of line. Eventually I will get into the big brooder brooks. If not on the hot spin pattern then maybe it will be on the ant.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Underwater minnows

What type of minnow or fry is this? I am pretty good at identifying adult fish species but the minnows are another story. I am going to make a guess that these are baby crappie. This guess could be biased simply because I love me some crappie slabs.

Largemouth bass minnows have a black stripe down the side and carp minnows generally have multiple stripes and fathead minnows will be black on top. There are no bluegill or sunfish present in this pond (at least none that I have seen in the 4 or 5 years but have caught crappie). Shape and fin placement match up but still can’t consider my guess bonafide. What do you think? Got a guess? Crappie right?

The green stuff in the background is filamentous algae and a bit of a nemesis of mine. Little tiny algae particles are created when sunlight enters the water. These particles then clump together to form long silk-like strands. It doesn’t take long before the strands form large globs of “muck” that plays havoc on my fishing line. Filamentous algae is not necessarily bad for the water and has a lot of benefits for the ecosystem overall. In this case however the algae is becoming too thick and starting to hurt the overall water quality. The fish will exhaust a lot of energy filtering this organic matter through their gills similar to living in a smoke filled room. But it does give baby crappies a place to hide, feed and hopefully grow to slabilicious size next Spring.

Good luck and Good Fishing.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Jurassic and The Land of Orcs…a two cliff-two part post

(Above: Here’s a shot of the river before the descent down the cliff and into the jungle.)

Part One: Into the Jurassic

There is a fishing spot that was once only rumored in obscure fishing circles. It was tough to find on a map and a few obstacles like BLM gates with no signs and a lot of private property kept it hidden from so much public intrusion. A steep canyon wall and immense cottonwood trees guard the river while towering in the sky. Matched with the rock formations and the untamed landscape this area looks almost prehistoric. At times the trout can be immense. I mean really big. Hence the nickname for this small stretch of public water…Jurassic Park.

Once we reached the base of the cliff, Don and I quickly made for the rollover at the head of the property. The first few casts came up nada but somewhere between cast 7 or 8 I feel a heavy pounding on the lure. The rod doubles over and the contest is afoot. As the fish runs for the heavy rapids my mind starts playing flashbacks of the big fish lost on the Thompson just a few weeks ago. I held my breath and lift the rod tip up slightly. It was just enough to lift and turn the head right towards. Within a few moments the fish was in the net.

(Above: Beauty brown trout. I have the fish turned at a bad angle and doesn’t show the thickness as well as I would like. A quick photo and some short vid. Thanks to Don for help with the footage on this one.)

Every time certain fishing spots get exposed to the masses on various venues it makes me cringe and a sick feeling starts to dwell in my gut. This one is getting far more publicity than I like. BLM has removed the gates and posted more signs saying “Hey you! Come fish here!” By 8:30AM we had other people rolling in. Time for us to roll out and grab another slice of water while there is still time.

Part Two: The Land of Orcs

(Above: “Is it me or does this trail look twice as far as it did last time?”)

Park the truck and go for the second drop in. This is not so much as a cliff drop this time as a steep road for orcs. The terrain is rugged and the heavy late summer foliage makes the trails a bit of a bushwack in most spots. The trees are thick and it smelled of something dying for whatever reason. If orcs still exist on this planet they would probably dwell here.

(Above: Orc Bridge. Not sure if this bridge sees much use these days. Hard to tell because orcs generally travel at night.)

This section was full of timid strikes, a few flashes and a couple small brown trout. Missed a couple of beautes in the +17’er range. Honestly it was a lot of cardio with a great view more than shameless bragging material. And I have to say the view is exceptional at midday. Some areas look eerie and almost orcish as where others look completely enchanting and beautiful.

We managed double digits of fish on both sides for the day but half of them would fit in a sardine can. The others weren’t far behind. On a two-cliff run I don’t bother with taking pictures of those fish. I might grab a nice river shot now and then.

(Above: River shot looking upstream with some shallow rapids. Possibly one of my better river shots this year.)

By the time we crawled out of the second canyon our legs were burning. Sun was at mid-sky and punishing those who choose to walk in waders. Still not completely satisfied we drove slowly along the highway around the few put-ins and parking areas at others pots.

“Six…seven…eight cars on this one.” Don counted out loud as we drove past.

“Oh man, that is locked up!” I replied in disgust.

By now everyone was waiting their turn on the best spots. Eventually we had no choice but to bag the rest of the day or wait in line with them. We chose to get the jump on the traffic. My legs were happy to hear that.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Catch of the day…well sort of

Fishing a lake about an hour from the house on the one day winds were not whipping. The water was flat like glass and the pontoon boat lay on top of the water like a lazy frog too fat to move. As I move from the deep blue into the shallow water my eyes catch a glint of something big and sparkly.

“Wow…sunken treasure!” I think to myself rigging up a discarded treble hook and a ¼ weight. I felt my inner pirate boiling to the surface as I brought up the gold.

“Aaaaarrgghhhh….she’s been down there a bit too long, me thinks.”

Flueger rod and reel matched up perfectly and retails around 150-200 for the combo. The corrosion was far beyond my elbow grease revival magic so this goes in the trophy\relic room as opposed to the action section. The rod is a Medium\Fast action rod with very little hook-set power in the tip…probably wouldn’t have worked anyway.

Fish? I caught about 50 bass but nothing in the OMG section. After reviewing the photo thread, sunken treasure was the catch of the day.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Let’s get to know…The Mackinaw (Or Lake Trout)

How cool are fish? Each species is different and has biological differences that control so much about where they live and why. Knowing these facts will help dial in the location and patterns of the fish you seek to catch. Fish identification is just the start. Learning the biological aspects helps us catch and preserve this amazing natural creature. Please bare with me and my poindexter excerpts of “Let’s get to know…”.

Let’s get to know The Mackinaw (Or Lake Trout)

One of the largest trout species in North America is the Mackinaw or Lake Trout as it is commonly called. This species of fish is actually a member of the char family and can reach upwards of 50lbs in Colorado. The state record being set in 2007 by D. Walker at 50.35lbs and 44.25 inches in length (Blue Mesa). How impressive is that?

Physical Attributes:

A deeply forked tail is the first distinguishing mark. The overall coloring is dark silver with light spots. The fins will have a narrow white line similar to brook trout but not as defined.

In Colorado lake trout prefer deep, clear water with average water temperatures of 50 degrees and will die in water temperatures over 75 degrees. These fish feed on most anything and can have a wide-ranging diet including their own species. In large lakes the lake trout will prefer to feed on other fish as where in the northern territory rivers and streams the lake trout will rely more on insects and crustaceans as that is what is more available.

Lake trout spawn in fall and normally reproduce every second year from September to November in most parts of their range. This species prefers to spawn on rock structure in close proximity to the shoreline depending on conditions. Females typically release 1600-3600 eggs per pound. Eggs hatch within four to five months depending on conditions. Light and wind factors play a large part in lake trout spawning. Lake trout don’t form mating pairs or construct redds like other salmonids. Eggs may be fertilized by one or more males and when they hatch the fish have to absorb the yolk sack for several weeks before fully emerging. Then the tiny buggers have to reach the water surface to fill their swim bladders before diving down to deeper, cooler waters.

The lake trout are one species of fish that is greatly controlled by water temperature. These fish will favor specific depths that relate directly to the water temperature of that area. Lake trout will move up and down the vertical spectrum feeding in the water with the ideal temperature in the shallowest water they can tolerate. Preferring colder temps, the macks don’t generally move into shallower water until late fall.

No love for trophy Mack fishing in Colorado

(Above: Image borrowed from AP Source\Colorado Division of Wildlife promotional material. Matt Smiley and a few other folks were chasing these big bad boys out at Blue Mesa 2005-2008. Records were being broken twice a year on this species over 50lbs.)

The regulations and management for the lake trout in Colorado is pretty lenient on the take side. In waters where Kokanee and rainbow trout may be favored there are no limits on size or number of fish and anglers are encouraged to keep all lake trout they catch. This management is meant to keep the lake trout viable in the system without displacing the other species. But this is not a very controlled method and results may vary greatly to one side or the other. It also does little to safeguard or promote a trophy mack population. Compounded with sponsored lake trout ice fishing tournaments and netting during spawning seasons, the deck is stacked heavily against this species. Big predator fish spark a lot of controversy in Colorado and there are good arguments on both sides of the fence. Hopefully anglers and officials can meet in the middle and safeguard a few places for big macs.

Some crazy cool facts about Mackinaw trout:

Lake trout are negatively phototropic; they avoid light.

Lake trout spawn at night.

Lake trout may not spawn every year, and northerly stocks tend to have fewer spawning fish in any one year. This is thought to be a function of photoperiod, shorter growing season, less abundant food, and the unproductive nature of many northern lakes.

In large bodies of water such as the Great Lakes, lake trout may migrate up to 300 km (186 mi) to their spawning grounds.

Lake trout scales are unreliable for aging purposes because the annuli cannot be distinguished. Researchers determine age by reading otoliths, which are calcified tissues of the inner ear used by fish for maintaining equilibrium and balance. The oldest fish on record, taken in the Northwest Territories, was aged at 65 years.

Female lake trout are crossed with male speckled trout to produce a fish known as splake, in a process called artificial hybridization. Hatcheries produce splake because this hybrid grows very quickly.

Good luck and Good Fishing

Acknowledgements and references below:

Sunday, September 5, 2010

There is no “Aint hurtin’ nuttin’” clause

You see it all the time in our fabulously amazing outdoor places where folks obviously sets the rules aside (or common sense for that matter) and do whatever they please. One guy is ripping his speedboat across the no-wake zone while another one is lighting bonfires in the no-fire area. One person is shooting everything in sight half a yard from the campground as where others are getting completely plastered in the no-alcohol areas. 99.9% of these instances are passed off with this supposed “Aint hurtin’ nuttin’” statement if questioned, even by authorities. The stories span from noisy dogs to drunken campers. Most are anecdotal or uncomfortable at best but several times a year this leads to confrontation, injury and even death across the country. Assault and arrest charges soon follow. This is really a problem when the “Aint hurtin’ nuttin’” mentality comes in contact with other folks trying to enjoy the outdoors.

Some people really think that rules are meant only for other people and can be skirted past as long as they are not hurting anything. I hear this excuse used so much that there must actually be some Lionel Hutz (Simpson reference) Lawyer type introducing this a plausible defense for Reginald and Roberta RuleBreakers. Rest assured I have looked through the rules and regulations multiple times and can tell you there is not an “Aint hurtin’ nuttin’” clause. Of course I only reviewed the Colorado regulations but pretty sure that it’s the same across the board for other states.

I started to write and cite some examples of close calls and minor skirmishes with a few ill-behaved persons in the outdoors. But readers would be better served to review some advice and solutions instead. The hardest part for me is knowing when to step in and point out the violation versus avoiding an all out brawl for a misdemeanor infraction such as “menacing wildlife”.

1. Gauge the infraction versus worst-case scenario: Meaning is the problem worth stepping in and butting heads? I tell myself that I have a 50\50 chance of getting into fisticuffs anytime this happens.

2. If you do step in, have some backup: It is always best to have one person step in and have a second in the background with the cell phone poised to dial authorities. Once the fur starts flying person number makes the phone call, gives quick summary and directions-then jumps in to save the first guy. As soon as you say, “We can take them”…hopefully this rule pops into mind.

3. Don’t get involved if you don’t have to: The managing authorities are the folks who should be contacted immediately at the first sign of a serious outdoor infraction. They are trained and equipped to handle any situation that is bound to escalate out of your control. Jot down the number of the local agency or managing authority of where you plan on going just in case. You can kick back on the sidelines and watch the action from your campsite rather than get involved yourself.

4. Follow the rules. Everyone else is going to be following the rules at your local lake or campground so you will just look like an ass when you start doing rooster tails in the swim-beach section on your jet ski. People swim there. I had to throw this in to remind even myself at times that rules are rules and they are there for a reason (even the ones that may seem ridiculous).

Seeing how we have managed not to burn down the entire Rocky Mountains over the summer, it would be good to finish out the year avoiding any “Tossed-Butt Gulch” or “Lost control campfire” incidents. There have already been a few occurrences where “Aint hurtin’ nuttin’” actually led to someone getting hurt. Summer heat and too much alcohol doesn’t exactly bring out the best in most people. My guess is that after this 3-Day weekend…Mr. Hutz is going to have a little more business.

Good luck and Good Fishing!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Big Whiskers

(Above: Not too shabby catfish. Look at the whiskers on this fish!)

Once upon a blue moon or maybe once a year I leave my humble abode in search of catfish. So many of my fishing tendencies are not easily explained and my seldom yet random catfish quests are a good example of that.

My tactics are not traditional catfish methods either. Rather than stinky catfish baits I simply slow troll a skirted jig with a pork trailer. Sometimes I will spray the jig setup with scented spray but the bottle of “juice” got busted up on one of the last trips. (Yes, I am rough on gear). Not having the juice might have made the difference between one 7-pounder as opposed to maybe a few bigger ones. Hopefully the larger cats have not been removed and I will get another shot next year perhaps.

This fish bounced around a bit on the scale ranging from 7lbs 8oz to 7lbs 3 oz. Of course the camera shutter captures the lowest weight taking my shameless bragging down a skosh. Admittedly the scale is often a buzzkill for me as fish generally look a good deal better than they actually weigh. After so much time spent on the weighing I chose not to get a length.

(Above: The fish is hooked under the gill plate with the point resting safely away from the gills. The screen causes a great deal of reflection so these weigh in shots could be real hit and miss.)

Catfish can be good for a lake in many regards. They take organic matter from the bottom, which helps keep harmful bacteria from getting worse. They can also be population regulators and help other species from overcrowding. Catfish can also harm certain populations as they can scour eggs from a nest in minutes wiping out an entire clutch of brood fish. Catfish will also eat live prey as often as they do anything else making them truly omnivores of the sport fish world. They play an important role in the ecosystem and deserve a lot more respect than what they receive in Colorado by most sport-fishing enthusiasts. The sheer size potential of these whisker-fish is what makes me set aside at least a few days out of the year to battle with these big meows.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.